Riffelhaus nostalgisch

Mark Twain: Riffelberg in literature

Story 78

The American writer Mark Twain visited Zermatt on his second trip to Europe in 1878 and climbed the Gornergrat. Reports from mountaineers inspired him to write a literary interpretation of the ascent of the Riffelberg. 

Strolling through Europe 

In “A Tramp Abroad”, Mark Twain described, in a semi-satirical way, the experiences of his second European trip in 1878. This brought him to Zermatt in August, where he stayed at the Hotel Monte Rosa and wrote his diary. During his stay, he climbed the Gornergrat with his companion Harris.

I had a magnificent view of Monte Rosa, and apparently all the rest of the Alpine world, from that high place. All the circling horizon was piled high with a mighty tumult of snowy crests.
Mark Twain
Diary “A Tramp Abroad”, 1878

Ascent of the Riffelberg 

The diary also explains that he spent his first evening in Zermatt reading books on mountaineering. The adventurous narratives inspired his imagination and led to a humorous passage about climbing the Riffelberg in “A Tramp Abroad” (chapters 36—39): 

“The expedition consisted of 198 persons, including the mules; or 205, including the cows,” Twain wrote of his expedition to the Riffelberg. The participants included 17 mountain guides, 4 surgeons and 15 barkeepers. But the rations and apparatus, as Twain called them, were also impressive. Among other things, he listed 22 barrels of whiskey, 2,000 cigars, 143 pairs of crutches, 25 spring mattresses, 29 tents, 22 ladders and 154 umbrellas.” 

Twain described the hike to the Riffelberg as an adventurous climb that lasted seven days. Which is no doubt why the group was so comprehensively equipped. 

Mark Twain Trail 

You can also walk in the footsteps of Mark Twain between Riffelalp and Riffelberg. You can find directions and further information from Zermatt Tourism.

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